If the prime minister says so, it must be at least fairly likely, right? During a visit to the UK in May, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dramatically changed the tone on Japan’s plans to reopen travel. This change ? Seriously consider reopening!
After more than two years with little hope and falling hopelessly behind other Asian hotspots including Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and more, the leader teased an almost imminent travel reopening, offering ” a smooth entry process similar to that of other G7 members.
In the days that followed, the hype only accelerated.
There are many rumors about what might be required of potential visitors, and even specific dates offered. If you’re dying to know, as we’re dying to know, here’s all the latest information on what’s in store for travel to Japan as the country seeks to reopen.
When does Japan plan to reopen?
From around 32,000,000 travelers in 2019 to around 250,000 in 2021, it’s fair to say that Japan has plenty of tourism ground to reclaim. The good news for the country is that there is a virtually endless number of people dying to return.
The first thing to know is that Japan is looking to ease prohibitive border controls during the months of June and July 2022. A specific date has yet to be set. It may be June 1, it may be July, and it may not be all at once. In fact, it won’t.
Japan has announced that the first tourist visitors from the United States, Australia, Thailand and Singapore will have to be booked on pre-packaged tours, with no deviations from plans. This is absolutely not “open” tourism.
We will update this as soon as possible once government officials confirm dates and further information. Sources say a full-scale press conference is expected to take place in the coming days, confirming the protocols.
According to recent studies, Japan’s border measures have cost 22 trillion yen in lost revenue, or about $170 billion. It’s a good reason to open.
Limits remain in place, for now
In addition to prohibitive border measures, Japan also has caps on the number of people who can enter the country each day. Reports suggest Japanese authorities will increase that number to as many as 20,000 a day in June.
That’s still a far cry from the 90,000+ that would typically arrive in a day.
Until visitor caps are completely removed, it is expected that some limits will remain, such as the requirement for package tours. Despite the hype, there may not be an immediate opportunity for casual visitors.
If Japan announces the removal of visitor caps, you may start to get excited. A full-scale reopening would be clear at this point. Currently, the best estimates are that visitor caps could be removed in July. Earlier would be lovely, of course.
What about the testing requirements for Japan?
Apparently part of the delay with the reopening of travel to Japan is the cautious approach to risk. Japan is currently testing travelers upon arrival, and when testing 10,000 or more people at once, you need to make sure you have enough tests.
There are strong indications that Japan will drop Covid-19 testing on arrival, either for fully vaccinated visitors or for people who have tested negative before departure to the country when new protocols come into effect. .
Which, or whether all testing could be dropped, remains to be confirmed. If you heard otherwise, you heard wrong. At least for now. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will (hopefully) update the new official entry protocols, once they are official.
What about proof of vaccination?
It is unclear whether visitors would be required to show proof of vaccination at this stage. This is likely, but exclusions may also be in place for unvaccinated visitors.
All early indications suggest that fully vaccinated and/or boosted visitors may skip at least some of the current testing requirements to enter Japan.
Does politics play into Japan’s border plans?
Perhaps. Japan will hold its Upper House elections in July. A sharp increase in cases or deaths among the elderly groups would negatively impact the approval of Kishida’s administration, so postponing it to July, or later (!) may be “at the right time” .
Polls also suggest the reopening is not as popular among Japanese residents as many might hope. Almost 40% of the country approves of the strict border measures and the desire to limit the number of visitors remains strong among many.
Japan is expected to open soon
Whether it’s a soft opening in June and a major opening in July, or something a little more accelerated, or a little slower…it’s an exciting time. Japan is clearly seriously considering reopening travel. Kon’nichiwa, Japan!
More details are expected this week as the government reviews case numbers and testing capacity, following ‘Golden Week’, a key national tourism period. If things look good, there may be good news on the horizon. From the culinary delights of Osaka to the extraordinary temples of Kyoto, Tokyo and beyond, I can’t wait!